Queer and Goth

The goth scene can be just as liberating as the gay scene if you're bi or trans

Feature by Rose Lindgren | 11 Jan 2007

Glow sticks, sweaty bodies and chest-thumping beats - sounds like any gay club. But when Ascension's website describes the club as 'Edinburgh's leading alternative night', they don't mean queer - they mean goth.

'Goth' is a subjective term, especially now with the rise of 'emo' with its equally wide-ranging connotations. So let me define my terms. Please interpret 'goth' as broadly as possible. It includes, but is not limited to: 'baby goth', 'occasional goth', and 'if I wear a colour other than black, I'll combust' goth. And let me define 'queer' as an all-inclusive term to include all peoples who might fit roughly under the lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender umbrella.

Although some LGBT people enjoy traditionally straight clubs with no problems, many find straight clubs intimidating and unsafe, myself included. It's only in specifically LGBT-friendly clubs that I feel safe snogging a female partner without worrying about being ogled or even harassed by uninvited straight men. When I discovered the vastness of the Edinburgh goth scene, though, my world of clubbing expanded fast. It helps, of course, that "being LGBT on the goth scene kinda makes up for your lack of Lacuna Coil knowledge or your mundane hairstyle," as a friend of mine asserts. "You know - 'he seems kinda normal, but he sleeps with men so he must be cool'."

Goth or alternative clubs like Ascension, Neon, and Bedlam, to name just a few, have become a safe haven not only for people exploring their sexual orientation but also exploring their gender identity. Among 'traditional goths' women tend to look very femme - long hair and corsets. But their male partners also have long hair and occasionally wear corsets themselves. Nearly everyone wears make-up regardless of sex and more than one brave man wears a skirt.

Bisexuality is almost the norm among the crowds that frequent Scotland's goth clubs. It's encouraged and even expected that many people will have an encounter with someone of the same sex. This shows a fantastic amount of acceptance and tolerance for bisexuals who often get flack from both sides of the 'fence' for being greedy or indecisive. In goth clubs, bisexuals are so common, they're practically passé. In order to even get an eyebrow raised, you've got to explore polyamory or S&M.

It's not strange to see two women kissing on the dance floor at any goth club, but the women with short spikey hair cuts, boyish clothing and piercings tend to be attracted to 'rock goth' clubs like Neon, where the music is a bit harder (and the drinks are cheaper). "If I grind with a girl, make out with a girl up against a wall, dirty dance to NIN it doesn't even get on the radar," says one woman. "That's what girls do in goth clubs."

Trans is a huge umbrella - but one of the most obvious components of trans presence in goth clubs is transvestites. Many men truss themselves up in corsets and lipstick, sometimes lace and thigh-high PVC heeled boots. According to one guy, "A man's ability to look good in a corset is plus a million points in a goth club." Whether they're expressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or just their fashion sense, goth clubs are a safe place to do it.

One woman I spoke to did mention her worry about actual acceptance of queer couples on the goth scene: "I do think that the fact so many women in particular are encouraged to try the whole snogging/shagging other women thing (and indeed thought rather prudish if they don't) could logically (and probably does) have the knock-on effect that girl/girl relations of all descriptions, whether of the weekend or the permanent, 'proper' relationship variety, are going to be seen as a temporary thing they're doing before they settle down with/go back to some guy. The sense is that you're just 'trying it out'. If you're someone who sees your homosexuality/bisexuality as an important part of your personality/life, it's being marginalised as something they're just trying out."

But maybe that doesn't matter? Just because the girl who so willingly and eagerly snogged you in the club isn't actually interested in women, doesn't mean it wasn't fun. A good night out is hard to find. Definitely worth investing in a few mesh tops and Doc Martens – and goth music, with its catchy beats and forlorn love lyrics, is a nice alternative to the over-produced cheese that dominates in practically every other LGBT-geared venue.

Goths in a general sense are very accepting, especially of people who are already seen to be outside the mainstream. I'm pretty sure that most 'visiting' queer folks would be made welcome in goth venues. It's interesting to ponder whether the reverse would be true.